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Last updated: 08.08.19

New food allergy laws introduced for retailers and takeaways

Why are Food allergies such an important issue?

Food allergies are serious health considerations, which have in recent years increasingly been catered for when it comes to food hygiene and safety legislation. Sadly, they can be life threatening, as we saw in 2016 with the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died shortly after eating a baguette from a well-known sandwich chain. As a result, the rules are becoming stricter, which we’re going to take a quick look at here.

What’s changing?

The result of this high profile incident is that ‘Natasha’s Law’ will be brought in by 2021. This law increases the requirements on food preparers and retailers to ensure that allergens are clearly detailed to customers.

As things stand in the current regulation Food Information for Consumers Regulation 2014, prepackaged food retailers sell, which has arrived from a manufacturer, must be labelled with ingredients including allergens, and in most other situations allergen information must be readily available.

To help manage food allergies in restaurants and cafes, a food allergen notice can be displayed to remind customers to highlight any food allergies or intolerances to staff members before ordering The law states that accurate food allergen information must be made available on request in writing for both the customers and staff. For example this could be on a printed menu, or written on a chalkboard.

For foods sold through distance selling, such as a telephone or online orders for a takeaway, allergen request information must be provided in two different stages; at ordering and at delivery.

The main thing that will be changing by 2021 is that food prepackaged and sold on the same premises will have to have full ingredients printed on the packaging. Currently, this isn’t a requirement, and staff need simply have the information for customers to hand. Going forwards it’s hoped that printed information such as this will prevent deaths such as those we’ve seen.

Which allergens must be made clear?

There is a group of allergens considered the most common and with the most severe potential allergic reactions, which must be made clear on any packaging. They must be highlighted in the ingredients list. These 14 allergens are:

  • Celery
  • Cereals containing gluten - including wheat, rye, barley and oats
  • Crustaceans - such as prawns, lobster and crabs
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Lupin
  • Milk
  • Molluscs - such as mussels and oysters
  • Mustard
  • Nuts - including almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soybeans
  • Sulphur dioxide and sulphites

What can caterers and retailers do to help?

All staff serving customers should be made aware of the risks to customers’ health, and ensure that the information they provide is as accurate as possible. If unsure when asked about food allergens by a customer, there should be procedures and policies in place to obtain the correct allergen information.

Training should be provided to staff so that they know the risks of allergen cross contamination whilst preparing and handling food and can guarantee that allergen-free meals are served to the right customers. For staff working in restaurants and takeaways, Virtual College offers a Food Allergen Awareness course to promote awareness of food allergens and to provide food allergy information and training. For chefs and staff working in the kitchen, more in-depth allergen training may be required. More information for food allergen safety for food handlers is available here.

Top Food Allergy FAQs


What are the required label elements?

Prepackaged food needs to have an ingredients list that emphasises allergenic ingredients, for example by making them bold. If there is a risk of cross-contamination in the production process, the packaging needs to say that it ‘may contain x’ or is ‘not suitable for someone with x allergy’.

What are three things required on a workplace label?

The three things that need to be on a WHMIS workplace label are the product name (matching the one included on the Safety Data Sheet); safe handling precautions, which may include pictograms or other supplier label information; and a reference to the Safety Data Sheet.

What information has to be on a food label?

The product name, safe handling precautions, which may include pictograms or other supplier label information; and a reference to the Safety Data Sheet should be included on a food label.

What information would you find on a Whmis label?


Click here to visit our full FAQ Hub

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